Small cell backhaul in the spotlight

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As carriers work furiously to expand their LTE networks, backhaul providers are jostling to get operators the capacity they need to handle heavy data traffic. Small cell solutions are getting particular attention.

Qualcomm stirred the market recently with its acquisition of DesignArt. The company offers a system-on-chip and software products for small cell indoor and outdoor networks, and integrated line-of-sight (LOS) and non-line-of-sight (NLOS) wireless backhaul.

Semiconductor and design company Xilinx Inc. announced earlier this week that it acquired Modesat Communications, a high-performance wireless backhaul solutions provider. Xilinx provides mobile backhaul platforms, and the purchase of Modesat expands its backhaul offerings.

The company said that it had received feedback from customers asking for a complete solution, and acquiring Modesat aligns its portfolio better with customer demand.

“Xilinx currently does significant business in the wireless infrastructure backhaul segment,” said Tarmo Pihl, co-founder of Modesat Communications. “With the addition of Modesat backhaul solutions, the opportunity in this segment will be greatly expanded and we will be better able to serve tier-1 and tier-2 wireless infrastructure customers and provide complete backhaul modem solutions.”

Meanwhile, NLoS microwave backhaul start-up BLiNQ Networks announced today that it secured another $10 million in funding for ongoing development and global sales and marketing. The company was founded in 2010 with assets from Nortel Networks, and targets the small cell base station market.

BLiNQ’s co-funder and CEO Mickey Miller said in a company statement that BLiNQ has had successful trials in North America and Europe that demonstrate the availability, reliability and scalability of NLoS backhaul. Scalability is a limitation of traditional backhaul, which mainly relied on T1 lines.

ABI Research recently projected that by itself, the microwave small cell backhaul equipment market will reach $6.4 billion by 2017. That figure represents an annual growth rate of 35% from a forecast $1.5 billion this year.

“We believe that 4G/LTE small cell solutions will again drive most of the microwave and fiber backhaul growth in metropolitan, urban and suburban areas,” said Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research. Marshall said that the backhaul market has been fairly static, but now is being shaped by the “huge growth in small cells. These cells have to be connected somehow, at faster and faster data rates.”

According to ABI, small cell backhaul over fiber will grow from 7% of the market to almost 24%, with fiber favored by China and North America. NLOS and line-of-site microwave technologies are projected to capture most of the market, with Wi-Fi backhauling about 12% of small cell backhaul by 2017.

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About Author

Kelly Hill

Editor, Big Data, Analytics, Test & Measurement
[email protected]
Kelly Hill currently reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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